Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Spirit of Unity

(7th Sunday of Easter, C)

To celebrate this Seventh Sunday of Easter is a special privilege. In most of the world, the feast of the Ascension has been transferred to today, but not here in the stalwart ecclesiastical province of New York where we maintain the traditional celebration of Ascension on the biblical fortieth day of Easter. So it is our privilege to hear in the gospel today one of Jesus’ most beautiful and spiritually rich prayers. At the end of the Last Supper in St. John’s gospel, Jesus prays for unity. He prays for his disciples and for those who will come to believe through them—us—that we “may all be one.”

Now when we start to talk about the unity that Jesus desires for us, and the catholicity of the Church from which it is inseparable, sometimes the first thing we hear is how we have to be in unity with our pastors and obedient to our bishop in union with the Holy Father. That’s true, but if it’s all we talk about, we risk missing the original good news of the gospel from which it all derives. In fact, when we begin to speak of the unity and catholicity of who we are as the Church, we are talking about the Holy Spirit, Whose coming we celebrate in a special way in these days between the Ascension of the Lord last Thursday and Pentecost next Sunday.

After all—or better, before all—the Holy Spirit is the unity of the Father and the Son. In our collects or ‘opening prayers’ for Mass we typically pray in the classic manner of Christians: through the Son to the Father, who live and reign in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Hopefully this language will be clearer once again when we have the joy of the new and improved English translation of the prayers for Mass.

The Holy Spirit—Who is the unity of Father and Son in the Blessed Trinity—is also about the work of unity in creation. We see the dawn of this great work of unity in the mystery of the Incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmas. As we pray in the Creed, “by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary.” By the consent of our Blessed Mother, the Holy Spirit conceives the Eternal Word of God in the human life of Jesus of Nazareth. By this conception the Holy Spirit accomplishes the work of unity that is our salvation: in Christ our human nature is united to the divine life of the Blessed Trinity. As the Spirit is the unity of Father and Son, so He also works to unite us to God.

During the Easter season, we celebrate the completion of this work of unity; the joining of humanity with God is fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection, such that each of us who consent to be baptized into his death and resurrection becomes also a conceiver of the Holy Spirit within. We heard this in its simplest and most sublime form during the proclamation of St. John’s Passion on Good Friday. John describes Jesus’ death on the Cross: “And bowing his head, he handed over the Spirit.”

Jesus’ passing over—through the corruption of our human death into the new life of the Resurrection to a place at the right hand of the Father—makes the same Holy Spirit through which he was conceived available to us in our humanity.

This is the good news of the fulfillment of Jesus’ great prayer “that they may all be one.” The Holy Spirit, Who is the Loving Unity of Father and Son, stretches the divine unity into creation through the Incarnation of the Word of God, and makes that unity with God available to each of us. The Spirit then empowers each of us to take up our particularly Marian vocation: to conceive spiritually by the Holy Spirit and make a place within for the Word of God to grow, that we may bear the joy and new life and God’s own unity to the world.


Kathy said...

Thank you!

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